BELMONT: Sizing up the field for final leg of Triple Crown

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NEW YORK (AP) Preakness winner Exaggerator is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in a field of 13 3-year-olds for the 148th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes. A look at how the field shapes up for Saturday’s final leg of the Triple Crown (horses listed by post position, with trainer, jockey, analysis, morning-line odds):

1. GOVERNOR MALIBU (Christophe Clement, Joel Rosario): Peter Pan runner-up should not be forgotten … In 2014, Clement and Rosario teamed up to win Peter Pan and the Belmont, spoiling California Chrome’s Triple try with Tonalist … Colt has finished in top 3 in all seven career starts … Odds: 12-1.

2. DESTIN (Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano): A respectable sixth in Derby, skipped Preakness … One of few who could be near lead early on if top rider Castellano chooses … Pletcher seeking third Belmont win. … Odds: 6-1.

3. CHERRY WINE (Dale Romans, Corey Lanerie): Made impressive stretch run to nip Derby winner Nyquist for second in Preakness … One of two Romans horses that likes to make huge late run, but plans are to be not so far back this time … Odds: 8-1.

4. SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (Donnie Von Hemel, Mike Smith): Could be on verge of breakthrough win … Trainer believes longer distance is asset for closer who ran fifth in the 1 1/4-mile Derby, and second in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby … Jockey change to Hall of Famer with two Belmont wins … Odds: 10-1.

5. STRADIVARI: (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez): Rugged start in Preakness in stakes debut, but otherwise ran well in finishing fourth … Could be an early pacesetter, and dictate strategy if Gettysburg doesn’t make grade … Odds: 5-1.

6. GETTYSBURG (Steve Asmussen, Paco Lopez): Speedy colt was late entry by WinStar Farm to help pick up early slow pace that could work against closers such as Creator and Exaggerator, both WinStar connections. Farm even shifted trainers from Pletcher to Asmussen … Entry should ensure quicker pace in 1 1/2-mile race, but little chance to win … Odds: 30-1.

7. SEEKING THE SOUL (Dallas Stewart, Florent Geroux): With this maiden winner and his other one, Forever d’Oro, owner Charles Fipke searching for diamond in rough … Hard to get worked up over either of these colts … Odds: 30-1.

8. FOREVER D’ORO (Dallas Stewart, Jose Ortiz): Broke maiden in third career start at Belmont on May 29 … If nothing else, there’s distance pedigree that could be on his side … Odds: 30-1.

9. TROJAN NATION (Paddy Gallagher, Aaron Gryder): Why not? Despite finishing nearly 27 lengths behind Nyquist in Derby, he did finish second in Wood at odds of 81-1 … Next win would be his first … Odds: 30-1.

10. LANI (Mikio Matsunaga, Yutaka Take): 11th in Derby, sixth in Preakness, is there a top 3 finish for gray colt before heading back to Japan? … Trainer says colt is as relaxed and training as well as possible at Belmont … Still hard to see him challenging, but crazier things have happened … Odds: 20-1.

11. EXAGGERTAOR (Keith Desormeaux, Kent Desormeaux): Deserving favorite seemingly getting better with each race … Won Preakness with strong stretch run in the slop after running second to Nyquist in Derby … Wet track would be an advantage … Odds: 9-5.

12. BRODY’S CAUSE (Dale Romans, Luis Saez): Despite seventh-place Derby finish, Romans not disappointed with effort … Skipped Preakness … If slow pace develops, look for come-from-behind colt to be closer to lead than usual … beat Exaggerator in Breeders’ Futurity last year … Odds: 20-1.

13. CREATOR (Steve Asmussen, Irad Ortiz, Jr.): Jockey change to one of nation’s top riders also familiar with Belmont could help. … Won Arkansas Derby but ran troubled 13th in Derby under Ricardo Santana … Yet another closer who could make this finish an interesting one … Celebrity chef Bobby Flay became part owner on Wednesday … Odds: 10-1.

PICKS: Creator, Exaggerator, Stradivari.

Follow Richard Rosenblatt on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/rosenblattap

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Arabian Knight earns Baffert record 6th win in Southwest

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Arabian Knight won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths on Saturday at Oaklawn, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record sixth victory in the race.

The colt came into the Kentucky Derby prep as one of the most highly touted 3-year-olds in the country. Arabian Knight, who was purchased for $2.3 million as a 2-year-old, was making his second career start and first on a sloppy track in front of 27,000 fans in Arkansas.

“These good horses are hard to come by,” said Baffert, who was on hand in Hot Springs. “We’ve had a lot of luck here at Oaklawn, so it was nice to have a horse like this.”

However, Arabian Knight was ineligible to earn the Kentucky Derby qualifying points awarded to the winner because Baffert has been suspended for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The penalty, which ends shortly after this year’s Derby on May 6, stems from Medina Spirit’s medication violation after the colt won the 2021 Derby and was later disqualified. Baffert is challenging the ban in court.

Ridden by John Velazquez, Arabian Knight ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:43.50 and paid $2.80 to win. He is 2-0 and has career earnings of $544,275.

“He ran 1:43 and change, that’s racehorse time and he did it without taking a deep breath,” Baffert said. “This was a big effort.”

Red Route One closed from last to finish second, and Frosted Departure was third. Sun Thunder was fourth, followed by Jace’s Road, Corona Bolt, El Tomate and Western Ghent.

At Gulfstream in Florida, Baffert’s entry Defunded finished second in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup, beaten by 4 1/2 lengths by Art Collector on Saturday.